Back in March, I wrote a blog about how we might be shopping in the future. How advances in technology will enable us to buy exactly what we want, rather than choose the closest fit from a predesigned range. In short we will, far more often, be able to buy something that was designed for us, rather than for someone else.

I find that prospect very exciting, but as a purveyor of bespoke services for over 12 years, I see a problem. Many people do not know how to commission someone. By that I mean, to get what you want, you need to be able to convey your ideas, tastes and thoughts to the artisan who will be doing the making. In short, you need to be able to write a good brief.

Now this is not as easy as it sounds. I can tell you now, that many people really struggle to tell someone what they are looking for. There is of course a certain emphasis on the designer to be able to ask the right questions, to gain the relevant information so that an accurate brief can be written, but in reality, those that write a good brief are far more likely to get what they are looking for. So here is my guide to putting together a good brief, so that you can take control and ensure that you get your dream piece.

  1. Drawing of tree

    Keep the overall feel that you want to achieve in mind

    Research, research, research. Ask for recommendations on the right artist to work with, look at their website and their social media. Satisfy yourself that you can work with them. Don’t focus on the style of their work necessarily, they will have designed want their previous clients wanted them to; it is much more important that you can get along with them and have a two way dialogue. Go with your gut feel, if something says you will like this person, it will probably work.

  2. Know your own mind. It is much more unlikely that you will get what you are looking for if you actually don’t know what you want to achieve. This might sound obvious, but it astounds me the number of times I have been expected to come up with ideas without any guidance whatsoever. It is perfectly fine to expect the artist to come up with ideas once they know what you like and dislike, but they are not mind readers. Without educating your designer on your tastes and style, it will be pure luck whether they guess right or not. I recommend that you pull together images of styles that you like and just as important, styles that you don’t like; Pinterest is great for this. These are purely to guide your designer on your tastes, not to show them exactly what you want.
  3. Think really hard about the outcome. I always focus on the top level ‘what do you want this to do for you?’ As a designer, if you can get to grips with how the finished piece is to make people think, feel and act, to my mind you are almost there.
  4. Set out your boundries. Some clients are perfectly happy for the designer to take the reins and steer things. Others have more definite ideas about how they want things to be and how much control they want to have. Both scenarios are fine, but just make sure that all parties know what they are doing.
  5. black and white drawing of New York skyline

    Getting the design right

    . Most artists will produce drawings along the way. Most will be sketches, but will help you to see whether the designer is on the right track. Most designers are happy to share these.

  6. Set parameters. Make sure that budgets and schedules are discussed prior to any work being done. I do not even start design work now until the budget has been agreed. Most designers can work to a budget if they are given it. Don’t be afraid to do this, it really does work.
  7. Give feedback. This is one of my pet peeves. Commisioning anything is a two way street. It is unlikely that the designer will get it exactly right first time and rather than be upset be negative feedback, most reputable designers welcome it. It helps them to grow and develop as a designer. People who let you spend hours on a project, then don’t even bother to give you feedback, are in my mind, just plain rude!
  8. Keep talking throughout the project. As soon as communication stops, the project is in jeopardy.

Having something designed and created for you is one of the most amazing experiences, whether it is a painting, a piece of furniture or a pair of shoes. You should enjoy the process almost as much as getting the final piece, and most importantly, it should bring you a sense of joy and well being every time you look at it, for all the years to come.

Happy commissioning.